Baker Donelson

On December 2, 2016, the Texas Supreme Court denied review in Cerny v. Marathon Oil Corp., leaving in place the decision of the Fourth Court of Appeals, affirming summary judgment for the defendants and finding that the plaintiffs’ nuisance and negligence claims were “in the nature of toxic tort claims which fall outside a lay person’s general knowledge and experience, [and] must therefore be proven with expert testimony.” (more…)

A focus on oilfield services companies’ decades old compensation plans for their service technicians began shortly after President Obama took office in 2009. The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) commenced a more concentrated effort to audit the manner in which oilfield services companies compensated their service technicians. (more…)

In Watervale Marine Co. v. U.S. Dep’t of Homeland Sec., the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit recently affirmed a district court ruling allowing the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security – acting through the Coast Guard – to impose certain conditions (non-financial in nature) upon the release of ships suspected of violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships. (more…)

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, in United States v. CITGO Petroleum Corp., No. 14-40128 (5th Cir. September 4, 2015), reversed the district court’s convictions of Citgo Petroleum Corp. (Citgo) for alleged violations of the Clean Air Act (CAA) and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA).  The alleged violations arose from Citgo’s waste water treatment program at its Corpus Christi oil refinery, where Citgo utilized oil-water separators, equalization tanks, and secondary treatment systems to process oil refinery wastewater. (more…)

Last year’s $2.9 million verdict in Parr v. Aruba Petroleum, the so-called “first fracking trial,” garnered attention in Texas and beyond. The significance laid not only in that the plaintiffs had succeeded on their private nuisance claim, but also because the verdict provided a publicly available measure of damages for tort litigation alleging health issues relating to drilling. The Parr verdict remains on appeal and may be modified or overturned, but a recent search indicates that it is far from the only case in which landowners have made health-related personal injury claims due to alleged exposure to hazardous gases and industrial chemicals from neighboring oil and gas activities. (more…)

On April 17, 2015, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) published proposed amendments to regulations for offshore well operators in the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS). The proposed amendments address numerous issues, including what constitutes a “safe drilling margin.” The proposed amendments may be viewed here. Anyone may submit comments to the BSEE on the proposed amendments by June 16, 2015. (more…)

The 2015 Louisiana legislative session is in full swing and the lawmakers are dealing with a projected $1.6 billion budget shortfall.  Of the many tax credits, exemptions and deductions that are in the legislature’s crosshairs, the horizontal drilling severance tax exemption has garnered particular interest. (more…)

Last week, the Texas Supreme Court issued its opinion in Environmental Processing Systems LC v. FPL Farming Ltd., case number 12-0905, and specifically declined to address the issue of whether wastewater that migrates under neighboring land can be considered a trespass. The Court, in a unanimous decision, reversed the judgment of the court of appeals and reinstated the trial court’s judgment that the landowner take nothing. Further the Court declined the invitation to address the remaining question presented in this appeal — namely, whether deep subsurface wastewater migration is actionable as a common law trespass in Texas. (more…)